The A, B, Cs of Loving One Another, “U”

By Elaine Baldwin | @elainehbaldwin

Understand the will of the Lord. Ephesians 5:17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Recently I had an enlightening conversation with a friend. The topic is irrelevant to this post, but the theme is most applicable. The gest of our conversation was the hurdles and struggles of understanding people and trying to figure out our relationships with them.

My friend quoted a section of a prayer attributed to Saint Francis.

“O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love.”

I think this prayer is in the will of the Lord as stated in Ephesians five and is a fine objective for anyone to attain. It is basically asking God to help us put others above ourselves. Jesus taught this principle throughout His earthly ministry. We are exhorted that it is better to serve than to be served. We are commanded that if someone asks us to walk a mile with their burden, to actually go two miles.

But I have to ask if any human being is truly capable of accomplishing the feat of putting someone else’s welfare above their own. The young ruler in Matthew 19 and Mark 10 was “almost complete.” He had kept “all these” commandments but lacked one thing. He could not put others welfare above his own; at least not to the extent Jesus asked of him. Jesus asked him to sell all he had and give to the poor.

The Bible tells us he couldn’t do it and went away grieving. Jesus then tells His disciples who had been eavesdropping that it is very hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 19:23-24)

This passage is not about the evils of money and of being rich, though some teach it is. If it is about the evils of being rich, why do the disciples ask, “Who then can be saved?” (Matthew 19:25) This question is inclusive. They were worried. Why? They weren’t rich.

Could it be that Peter understood that he also had trouble putting others first even though he had little? Did the disciples understand that they too were basically selfish and wanted their own needs met before worrying about others even though they had left all? There are numerous examples of the disciples displaying attitudes of, “Me first.” Were they truly saved?

But, Jesus answers their sincere question in verse 26.

And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible,

but with God all things are possible.”

What exactly is impossible with people…Salvation!

And what exactly is possible with God…All Things; Including Salvation!

The problem for the young ruler wasn’t his riches. It was his lack of faith…faith that if he put others’ welfare above his own, Jesus would take care of him. He didn’t understand that Jesus could and was very willing to take care of all his needs and more. The young ruler didn’t understand that Jesus could take much better care of him than he could take care of himself. He didn’t understand that true abundance was found only in Jesus.

This is the difference between the disciples and the rich young ruler. It wasn’t the money. It was the lack of a faith understanding. The disciples put their faith in Jesus. They believed He was the Messiah; the Lamb of God. And Jesus commends them for this in verse 28

Did the Twelve always understand what the will of the Lord was? Not always in the specifics.  Just like us they often allowed their selfish desires to override their daily faith. But, except for one (Judas), they always kept the understanding faith of their First Love and through His power they were able to love others even unto death.

Jesus finished this lesson on faith with the admonition in verse 30.

But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

Photo By: Margaret Richards |

A, B, Cs of Loving One Another (Another “T”)

By Elaine Baldwin | @elainehbaldwin

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  This is not earth shattering news. What is a tad bit disconcerting to me is that I have experienced over half-a-century’s worth of Thanksgivings.  Where has all that time gone and how did I get this old? I am after all the baby of the family. That should count for something!

And it does count for something. No matter how old my siblings get,

I will always be younger than them; still old…but younger!

Actually I don’t feel that old. I’m not sure what 54 is supposed to feel like, but I remember as a kid thinking anyone over 50 was ancient and soon to expire. I am very grateful that I will not soon expire; at least as far as I know. And a person is not ancient until they celebrate their 100th birthday!

My how perspectives change over time. That is a good thing. We’re told by God to put away childish things; to grow up. That doesn’t mean I have to be all stodgy and have the expression of a prune. But, it does mean I mature in my thinking, in my attitudes and in my thankfulness. But putting away childish things doesn’t always come with age nor is it always progressive.
I remember sitting around the Thanksgiving table as a kid and being asked, “What are you thankful for?” My usual answer was the food sitting in front me and the new dress I was wearing. My answers weren’t a whole lot deeper as a teen. Back then I gave thanks for friends (whoever I wasn’t mad at) and music and good times.

Then I got married and had kids. Of course now my objects of thanksgiving were much more meaningful as long as we were all healthy and we could buy the latest toys we wanted (for kids and adults) and everyone appreciated me the way they should.

And then the kids grew up and had adult style problems (I thought potty training was hard.)

Our Nest Was Empty!

At a time when God challenged me to trust Him…

I chose not to be thankful; not even childish thankful…

and my little slice of existence in this world turned gray.

I do not recommend this choice. Choosing ungratefulness is the dumbest thing I’ve ever done and by far the most destructive and paralyzing. It zapped every ounce of energy out of me and battered the brave souls who stuck with me. It is only by God’s mercy and grace that my marriage and my family survived those awful years of thankless living.

You see love and thankfulness go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other. If your thankfulness dries up your love will dwindle right along with it. Oh you may be able to pretend to be thankful and have a pretense of love for awhile, but if these are not truly and deeply in your soul, the ugly truth will seep out all over everything you say and do. I know this is fact because I’ve been there and done that AND because God makes it clear that a lack of genuine thankfulness will lead to ruin.

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

Romans 1:21

So on this my 54th Thanksgiving…

I Chose to Give Thanks to Jehovah God and for All His Benefits Toward Me!

photo credit: bemky via photopin cc

In the Quiet Place

Often when we speak of a quiet place we refer to serene scenes by a lake or a cozy nook next to a warm fire. Rarely would we describe wind or pouring rain or storms as being quiet places.

When we think of quiet moments we think of ourselves alone with a book or our Bible. We don’t usually associate huge crowds or the hustle and bustle of dredging out a life as quiet moments.

But I wonder if more people aren’t in their own private quiet place in the midst of swirling winds and expanding crowds.

Think about the last time you sat in an emergency room with a sick loved one or friend or your daily commute on mass transit. Didn’t you seclude yourself into your own quiet place even in the midst of the chaos around you? And wasn’t everyone else doing the same?

We are encouraged, even commanded to retreat to our closets and be quiet before the Lord (Matthew 6:6.) Jesus retreated often to a quiet place to pray and commune with His Father (Matthew 14:23). It is important for us to have the quiet place and to visit there often. It refreshes us. It shores us up. It renews heart, soul and mind.

The question is and the Love One Another Challenge this week is…

Do we actually retreat into various shapes and sizes of quiet places when we should not?

Are we supposed to be so self-absorbed and guarded that we do not see and do not care about the hurting and dying world around us? Jesus retreated to His quiet place after long hours of engaging and investing in peoples lives every day. I think modern day believers are much better at taking their quiet places with  them wherever they go so they won’t have to notice and impact lives.

Is it possible the modern believer has made an idol of his/her “personal space?”

I hold no claim to living outside my personal space. I confess I value it (translation; I idolize it) a great deal. The result is I miss so much.

I miss the check out clerk who looks weary and could use a kind word and a smile.

I miss the mom juggling three kids and a dozen shopping bags who could use a hand with the door.

I miss the lady sitting right next to me in church who dabs her eyes more than once during the closing hymn.

But, God has taken His two-edged sword and patiently clipped away my personal space. At first it was really…really scary and I kept scurrying back to my shrinking take-a-long personal space (quiet place.) And God would shoo my out again. This has been a long arduous process, but I am so thankful God remained (and remains) faithful in giving me courage to do away with this idol.

The result?

My days are more meaningful; full of smiles and laughter and, yes, some tears. But, my days matter! Isn’t that we all want? The legacy we want to leave; that our days mattered?

And my nights? Well, I sleep much more soundly. Why? Because after a full day outside of my own space, I retreat to the true quiet place with my Lord where I am calmed and restored.

The Challenge…
This week ask God to shrink your personal space and open your eyes to those around you. People trudging through wind and pouring rain and desperately wishing they weren’t alone in their portable quiet place.

photo credit: VinothChandar via photopin cc